Family of 6 displaced after Casselberry house fire

Central A/C-heating unit inside garage caused fire, investigators say

CASSELBERRY, Fla. – Firefighters battled a blaze early Thursday that caused significant damage to a home near Casselberry.

The Seminole County Fire Department told News 6 an air conditioning and heating unit caused the home to go up in flames, which displaced a family of six.

Fire crews responded to the home on Willow Bay Terrace around 12:05 a.m. Thursday. When firefighters arrived, the fire was still active and located inside the garage.

Investigators said initial reports indicate the fire started in the central air conditioning and heating unit located in the garage.

"We saw it on Red Bug. The smoke was really big and tall," neighbor Alfredo Ellis said. "We were really concerned because it was really close to my house."

Firefighters said four adults and two children were inside. They all made it out and crews also rescued the family's cat.

Pictures taken inside the home by a neighbor show extensive damage inside the garage and throughout the home. The A/C unit was charred and burned.

"People are turning on the heat and it's just very unfortunate this happened when it got to this point," Ellis said.

John Walker, with Pro-Tech Orlando, told News 6 that A/C and heating maintenance is important. 

"We highly recommend that the unit be serviced and maintained routinely so that they are tested and checked out before the cold weather hits," Walker said. "Improper maintenance, improper installation can lead to failures. Statistically, the No. 2 cause of home fires in the country is faulty heating and air conditioning equipment."

Walker said units should be checked twice a year. The burning  odor you smell when you turn the heat on is from dust on the coils, he said, adding that people should not worry about the odor unless it lasts longer than 15 minutes. 

Even though winter has started, Walker said, it is not too late to get your unit checked. 

"Maintenance is the biggest key. Get on it. Get it checked out ahead of time so that you know it's not going to be a problem," he said. 

Crews spent Thursday boarding up the home, and the residents returned to gather their belongings. 

The Red Cross is helping the family.

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